Cover of Governing Security by Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar
Governing Security
The Hidden Origins of American Security Agencies
Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar


336 pages.
from $30.00

Hardcover ISBN: 9780804770699
Paperback ISBN: 9780804770705
Ebook ISBN: 9780804784344

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Winner of the 2013 Outstanding Academic Title Award, sponsored by Choice.

Statutes and regulations are frequently designed to affect the public in specific ways. But exactly how these laws ultimately impact the public often depends on how politicians go about securing control of the complex public agencies that implement policies, and how these organizations in turn are used to define the often-contested concept of "national security." Governing Security explores this dynamic by investigating the surprising history of two major federal agencies that touch the lives of Americans every day: the Roosevelt-era Federal Security Agency––which eventually became today's Department of Health and Human Services––and the more recently created Department of Homeland Security.

By describing the legal, political, and institutional history of both organizations, Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar offers a compelling account of crucial developments affecting the basic architecture of our nation. He shows how Americans end up choosing security goals not through an elaborate technical process, but in lively and overlapping settings involving conflict over statutory programs, agency autonomy, presidential power, and priorities for domestic and international risk regulation. Ultimately, as Cuéllar shows, ongoing fights about the scope of national security reshape the very structure of government and the intricate process through which statutes and regulations are implemented, particularly during––or in anticipation of––a national crisis.

About the author

Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar is a Justice of the Supreme Court of California. The former Stanley Morrison Professor of Law at Stanford Law School, he also led the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies at Stanford University, and previously, Stanford's Center for International Security and Cooperation. He served in the Obama and Clinton Administrations, and has written extensively about administrative law and legislation, cyberlaw, citizenship and immigration, public health law, and criminal justice.

"This well-researched and written book should become a seminal work. Any scholar or student of bureaucracy, security studies broadly, or modern US history should read this excellent book . . . Essential."

—T. T. Gibson, CHOICE

"Not only does Cuéllar's background as a professor of law and political science lend authority to his book, references to a multitude of scholars across many fields suggest that the book is a major work on American national security. Each chapter has extensive and annotated footnotes, and the book has a lengthy bibliography."

—Susan A. Smith, Law Library Journal

"Resurrecting FDR's largely forgotten Federal Security Agency and showing how it morphed into the present-day Department of Health and Human Services, Cuéllar exposes the organizational roots of policy and the bureaucratic roots of power. Applying this fresh lens to the Department of Homeland Security places bureaucratic power into an unforgiving glare. In this book, law, political science, and sociology come together in a masterful analysis."

—Charles Perrow, Yale University

"Security is a simple word with a complex and contested history. In this learned, lucid, and provocative book, Mariano-Florentino Cuellar brilliantly illuminates both the intellectual and the institutional evolution of America's often-troubled preoccupation with security over the last three-quarters of a century."

—David Kennedy, Stanford University

"Governing Security deftly blends archival research, news accounts, and bureaucratic theory to reveal fascinating parallels and divergences in the establishment and operation of the old Federal Security Agency and new Department of Homeland Security. Cuellar offers compelling insights—for policymakers on the attractiveness of defining security broadly and for political scientists on the myriad factors that shape agency creation."

—Anne Joseph O'Connell, University of California, Berkeley